After the shooting incident at the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno yesterday and Sundar Pichai writing to the employees to stand together with the Google team, it is only apt that the search giant’s employees want nothing to do with war. There are reports that the employees have gotten together to push back against a project the company has taken up for the US Department of Defence.
The New York Times reported that around 3,100 employees signed a letter addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, demanding that the company pull out of Project Maven. The project is a controversial AI project that will allow the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, to identify video images and hence improve their drone strikes.
Shared by The New York Times, the letter states, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that project Maven be cancelled and that Google draft, publicize, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”
This is not the first time the company’s employees have been opposed to something. Earlier protest petitions have been circulated about Google Plus, and Google’s sponsorship of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Given that the US has consistently used drones since 2004 for warfare, Google’s assistance on Project Maven is only going to make the DoD’s devices more efficient killing machines. It is no wonder then that employees want the company to stay away from the project.
In 2016, while forming the parent company Alphabet, Google replaced its “Don’t be evil” motto with “Do the Right Thing”. Looks like now is the time for the company to live up to its own motto and take a stand in support for peace.
A platform with limitless possibilities, AI is surely going to be used by governments for warfare and spying across the world. In that context, and against the backdrop of today’s debates over data privacy, human rights, and civil liberties, the stance that the Google employees have taken is an important one.